By FRANCISCO E. JIMENEZ
The San Benito Lady ’Hounds varsity wrestling program has been insurmountable in recent years, seeing success at all levels, both individually and as a team.
With a team that has won a district championship three years straight, among numerous other accomplishments, senior Valeria Torres has surfaced as one of the state’s premier wrestlers with a stellar season and some hardware to prove it.
Torres traveled to Austin last weekend, when she was able to capture a bronze medal in the 128-pound weight division. While most would be ecstatic to be considered one of the top wrestlers in the state, Torres said that she did not exactly meet her own expectations.
“I accomplished my goals, but I actually wanted to get first place (at state),” Torres said Wednesday in the portable building where she and her fellow Lady ’Hound grapplers practice during the season. “What I got is good enough. It’s better than last year.”
She is referring to last year’s state championship tournament in which she placed ninth in her weight class and held a 1-2 record at the tourney. While Torres sees her accomplishment as simply an improvement from the previous year, her wrestling coach sees it as something more.
“I was very ecstatic and excited (when Torres won her medal),” said head girls’ wrestling coach Crispin Lopez. “I kind of feel like, if Valeria had been healthy throughout the whole tournament there is no doubt in my mind that she would have been the state champion. She has set the bar high for the other girls who are coming up in the program.”
“Last year,” Lopez continued, “we had Alex (Marmolejo) medal fifth (at the state tournament), and Valeria, and myself and Coach (Leticia) Pope made it a point that (Torres) was going to get back (to state) and try to improve on what we did last year. It did happen this year.”
With all that Torres has accomplished, as well as that of the other members of the Lady ’Hound wrestling team – a three-time district championship squad – the bar has been set even higher.
“We want a state champion, not only individually, but a state championship for the school, team-wise,” said Lopez. “Those are our aspirations. That’s what I expect from our girls.”
When asked what he attributes the ever-abundant success of his squad, Lopez offered a simple explanation.
“The success we’ve had over the last three years has pretty much been a result of a lot of hard work, dedication, and discipline,” Lopez said. “We sacrifice a lot. I demand a lot from these girls, and I expect nothing but the best from them. Team-wise, I have a good group of girls who have pretty much bought into the program. A lot of these girls specialize in strictly wrestling. They don’t specialize in any other sport, and that’s what made our program very successful.”
After experiencing such success on the mat throughout her high school wrestling career, one might assume that Torres would want to continue as much at the college level. But Torres said she has a different plan. Even though she has been offered scholarships from various universities, she plans to end her wrestling career on a high note.
“Since it was my last match, I just wanted to leave everything on the mat,” Torres said about her feelings wrestling in her last match. “It felt amazing (winning the bronze medal). I never thought that I could make it that far. When I did, it was a big relief.”
Torres ended her career with a record of 27-1 on the season, losing only to Taylor Alva of Houston Cypress Woods High School by fall in the third period with a total time of 5:52. Alva went on to become state champion.
The future remains bright for Lady ’Hound wrestling, especially with state qualifier Heather Rodriguez, a junior, returning next season.
Read this story in the March 3 edition of the San Benito News, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here.